Sunday, March 28, 2021

PAVLOVIAN

Alas, not the dessert.

Regarding the recent necessity of transferring the entire school curriculum online, I have heard numerous contradictory reports; running the gamut from high praise to complete waste of time. One can easily imagine the various factors attendant on the various opinions held. And all are probably true, with the consensus averaging into the middle range. This concurs with my opinion; this process has been fairly successful, in that the averagely diligent pupil and parents, combined with the averagely diligent teacher, has produced an averagely successful outcome – within the limits imposed. Whatever damage has been done to pupils by the lockdown and the necessary online classroom they have been attending for the last year is trivial, at least as far as their learning is concerned.

Regardless of the various personal outcomes, though, one would be correct and fair in claiming that, from a strictly operational viewpoint, this has been well-handled by schools. And so, I nod an approval to the IT monkeys behind it all.

However, that small blessing of my endorsement dispensed with, I now wear my worried face.

And this is because now that this trial run of remote, screen learning has been proven, both in the operational sense and in the apparent wide parent acceptance (admittedly, with no choice!), we can expect more of the same. More of the same means even more time spent looking at screens, and at an ever younger age. And when the new upgraded virus revisits its old haunts in its 2021-2022 Tour – and we have been promised this by the philanthropist king of the vaccines and his CDC courtiers – everything will be already in place for the stay-safer option of a more permanent remote learning ‘experience’. Of course, children already spend too much time in class looking at screens anyway, but at least this 2D experience is somewhat mediated by the 4D presence of classmates in meatspace. This new learning will do away with this distraction, and the need for the teacher-avatar to get changed out of their pyjama bottoms.

My worry is that these developments further legitimise the life online, from being an adjunct of teaching and learning, to being the main means. As I see it, the most important second order effect of this is to embed deeper in the child’s mind all the techniques and gimmicks, from garbage-level computer artwork to the lab rat level electronic feedback, of laboratory-style animal training as the default form of human learning. And to make the teacher rely on pre-made resources to facilitate this – such resources often made by the same interests that own and promote the online learning platforms! Thusly, making these geegaws and symbols the same foundation for our children’s school learning as they are in our adult world. i.e., the principal means of informing our distorted world-view and training our responses to this. Everything on-screen and everything controlled by those who own it. Their ambition for our future 4D world curated through their control of our children’s 2D world.

Online learning is ultimately an enemy of our children.

In short, this is programming in the manner of Pavlov. I would remind you that his famous experiments were with dogs. Alas, the powers that direct this coming mind experiment consider us and our children as an animal much further down the phylogenetic scale.

What think ye?

 


Sunday, March 21, 2021

MORECOMBE PROMENADE 1953

 

Full circle

 

I saw him leave a pretty girl

and walk over the road

for round two

carrying the gravity of a grown man

but still with a youth’s speed

and adding a corporal’s strips.

 

I said to my girls, Just walk on. Go!

Which they did, for the first time ever,

without question or complaint;

their female antennae sensed

the danger in my voice

as I saw in my mind’s eye

 

him back 10 years and inside a circle

of part shocked, but mainly thrilled, pupils

punching the shit (and dentures) 

out of Mr Porter.

And curing him forever, I’m fairly certain,

of his famous facetiousness.

 

I tried not to look hostile or too afraid.

He noted my girls who had stopped

at safe distance and were watching.

Clearly understanding the intention

and my expectation of, at 51 years old,

another fistfight.

 

Excuse me, Sir, you won’t remember me, but…

I remember you, Williams.

I just came over to tell you, Sir,

you were right and  I want to apologise

for my behaviour back then.

Seemingly, the Army finally did what I tried to do.

 

Well, I’m glad to hear that you

are keeping out of trouble? 

Well, sort of, Sir. I’m putting it to

best use in the boxing ring.

I’m Northern Area Army Champion.

And so, we chatted for a while


his girlfriend was brought over

who turned out to be his fiancée.

Congratulations were given and

had I not been with the girls

I would have suggested a celebratory drink.

Never was one warranted more.

 

Removed from his angrier younger self

he had become a personable young man

and hardly carrying menace, excepting

a physique which suggested

the ability to prevail.

30 years of teaching and every day

 

a fresh lesson, and this the best.

A kid just not kitted out for school

who finally found his feet when

he found a better use for his fists.

Bad boy made good, my own tiny role

a justification for tonight’s whisky.


This poem is a true story. And it is a story that is nearly always true about a pupil, no matter who they are; time fixes things.

This is from my Queens of the Reich which is linked above.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

WORKING MEMORY: IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!

 

It’s brain science.

That portion of brain power that is free on the point of introduction to a new idea, to actually engage with this new idea. This is obviously a limited resource, and so logically one should strive to de-clutter the introduction process of extraneous material and leave the working memory (in this case of a child in class) free to get on with the task of learning something new. A typical pupil, coming fresh to a new lesson, has a working memory of four to six items, or facts, that they can hold in their mind at the same time as they engage with the lesson. Use up this working memory before the new lesson has started and the child will struggle to understand what they are supposed to be learning, or properly focus on the task.

Of course, as we are talking about brain function which is hardly understood, even by brain scientists, this is just a metaphor, but it conforms to reality as we commonly experience it; don’t give someone too many new things to do at the start of learning something new, or you’ll confuse them.

And so, schools being what they are, this is what we do. Flying in the face of science, common-sense and our own everyday experience, we, as mandated by pedagogic practice, clog up the minds of our pupils before the lesson has started with; targets consulted, learning powers to be activated, skill sets accessed, required group protocols, Walts and Wilfs*; and so, as a consequence, their working memory is gone!

This is all supposed to help by making the lesson content and intention explicit. Certainly, to someone ignorant of the concept of working memory, this pre-lesson loading may create the impression of great thoroughness and intellectual endeavour, with all the learning bases touched, but really, it does the opposite.

Those children who can, eventually come to ignore all this pre-lesson excess and keep their working memory safe for the lesson. The others? That’s why we have remedial.

What think ye?


*   Actually, these learning twins can be a useful mnemonic, if used sparingly!  It tells the pupil what we are learning and what the teacher wants to see in completed work. In school, of course, they are battered to death daily.